Palace’s Premier League campaign got off to a bad start as they narrowly lost 1-0 to West Bromwich Albion at Selhurst Park.
The Eagles – who have still not won any of their opening home games in the Premier League – were consigned to defeat by Salomon Rondon’s 74th minute header from a James McClean free-kick and Alan Pardew’s men couldn’t muster up a response in the remaining time.
Wilfried Zaha and Andros Townsend had the best of the chances for the hosts with Ben Foster making a good double save to deny the former, but the opening day would end in defeat for those in red and blue.
The first real action of the season at Selhurst Park saw Wayne Hennessey called into action after just eight minutes. Craig Gardner curled an inviting cross into the box from the left and Rondon attempted to divert a header into the far corner but the Welshman continued his good form from Euro 2016 by springing to his left and clawing the attempt away from his line.
Connor Wickham, fresh from scoring twice against Valencia a week before, nearly continued his good form by trying to score with a flick-on from debutant Andros Townsend’s free-kick but it flew wide, and then
Saido Berahino was next to try the aerial route to goal but he could only guide a powerful cross by Rondon well past the post.
There had been little attacking threat from the hosts in the opening 20 minutes but they showed they were capable of suddenly bursting into life when a neat one-touch passing move saw Mile Jedinak of all people bursting down the wing, and he put in a fine low cross for Wickham who took a touch in the box before he screwed awkwardly off-target.
However there was little else of note to report for the remainder of the half as both teams struggled to create any clear-cut chances, and the final opportunity of the first 45 saw Rondon nod harmlessly wide as a quiet half came to a close.
But the first real excitement came six minutes after the restart. Wilfried Zaha was played though on goal but he took the ball too close to Ben Foster who managed to block his initial attempt, and after the winger got a second bite he turned and shot goalwards but once again the former England goalkeeper managed to get something to it and West Brom scrambled clear.
Palace fans got a glimpse of why the club paid £13 million for Townsend over the summer when he cut inside from the left and dribbled past a couple of Albion players before finding Jason Puncheon with a good pass. The Croydon native managed to get the ball under control and take aim but his straight strike was comfortable for Foster.
A few minutes later hearts were in mouths around a nervous Selhurst Park on the hour mark when the Baggies initiated a goalmouth scramble that saw Claudio Yacob try his luck twice – the first was blocked with a number of bodies in front of him before the Argentinian curled the rebound wide, but Palace were soon back on the front foot and Townsend saw a blast from the edge of the box zip over the angle of post and bar.
Suddenly a game had broken out and Jonas Olsson rippled the top of the net with a header from another fine Gardner delivery, and Hennessey got his body behind a fizzing drive from Berahino as the game entered the final 20 minutes.
However the visitors made their pressure tell as they got themselves in front, once again via an aerial attack. McClean had replaced Gardner a few minutes before but the quality of the set-pieces didn’t suffer, and another fine cross by the Republic of Ireland international was flicked into the net by the head by Rondon to hand Tony Pulis’ men the lead.
They nearly extended their advantage where new winger Matt Phillips pulled an effort wide after the impressive Rondon produced some nice hold-up play, but a resolute rear-guard prevented the Eagles from creating anything else of note with Townsend seeing a grasscutter from the edge of the box and a last-gasp free-kick fail to test Foster as the Eagles were left empty-handed on day one.
Palace: Hennessey, Ward, Dann, Delaney, Souare (Kelly 90), Jedinak, Puncheon (Cabaye 76), Zaha, Lee (Bolasie 65), Townsend, Wickham. Subs not used: Speroni, Ledley, Anderson, Ladapo.
West Brom: Foster, Dawson, Olsson, McAuley, Evans, Yacob, Fletcher, Gardner (McClean 71), Phillips, Rondon, Berahino (Morrison 85). Subs not used: Myhill, Wilson, Field, Leko, Lambert.